Education Planning Group: Schools update... 02 December

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Image Description: Education Planning Group update from Cumbria County Council. Image depicts: A collage of school-aged children.

In today's update:

dan barton

Dear Colleagues,

A very warm welcome to this week's education planning group bulletin.

I know this week has been an especially tough one, with many schools having to close due to the power outages and other issues caused by Storm Arwen. 

So, I would just like to extend my immense gratitude to all of you who have been working tirelessly throughout this difficult period.

Moving to today's bulletin, we have a couple of important updates from Public Health, a reminder to keep your eyes peeled for the Christmas Free School Meal voucher offer launching tomorrow and much more.

That's all from me, so let's dive in to this week's update.

Best wishes,

Dan Barton, Assistant Director - Education and Skills

Image description: Head and shoulders photograph of Daniel Barton, the Assistant Director - Education and Skills.

Public Health updates

Download updated public health guidance for schools

Our Public Health team have produced a Public Health update for schools which includes advice on Christmas events and frequently asked questions about the Omicron variant. 

Key messages:

  • Reintroduction of face coverings for Year 7+
  • Close contacts must isolate and take a PCR test regardless of age/vaccination status once contacted by UKSA or PHE.
  • School Christmas events OK to continue
  • Whole class closures for youngest children may be necessary if close contacts cannot be identified.

Updated model risk assessment

The Schools IPC Model Risk Assessment's have been updated to take into consideration concerns around the Omicron variant. 

Changes are highlighted in Blue so they can be easily seen. Download the risk assessment's below:

New electronic reporting system: delay to roll-out

There has been a short delay in rolling out the new electronic reporting system. This is to ensure that the new system works smoothly, and links into current arrangements for monitoring and maintaining oversight of cases.

We hope to provide a further update on progress in the next few weeks. In the meantime, Educational settings should continue to notify the Education Infection Prevention and Control (EIPC) Team of COVID-19 cases, by emailing their notification forms to

Fake NHS email for ordering Omicron PCR test kits

Please be aware of a fake NHS email being sent to education and childcare settings which asks you to order ‘Omicron PCR test kits’. The NHS will never ask you for bank details so please be aware of these suspicious emails or similar text messages.

Further information on how to spot and report scam emails, text messages and phone calls is available through the National Cyber Security Centre.

Update from DfE regarding January testing

The Department for Education would like all secondary schools to prepare to test their pupils once on-site on return in January. This is because testing continues to play a vital role in keeping COVID-19 out of schools. Testing all pupils in school boosts testing participation and will help reduce transmission after a period of social mixing over the school holidays.

Secondary schools will have the option to stagger the return to school for the first week to accommodate on-site testing. Schools have the flexibility to consider how best to deliver the one test on return according to their circumstances.

Ofsted has confirmed that secondary schools will not be inspected, unless there are urgent concerns, during the first week of schools’ return in January.

Updated guidance is available on the document sharing platform to support you to prepare for asymptomatic testing when you return in January, including (for secondary schools) an asymptomatic testing site.

School closure alerts - help guide

Following the school closures caused this week by Storm Arwen, schools are reminded to the county council school closure alert system. If your school has to close, update the system and details of the closure will be automatically emailed to over 10,000 parents and published on the county council's main social media accounts.

A short help guide has been produced for schools on how to create a school closure alert, which can be found below:

School Closure Alerts – Help Guide

Christmas Holidays ‘Free School Meal’ Voucher Offer

WONDE FSM ‘LA WINDOW’ OPENS Friday 3rd  December 2021

The county council has again committed to ensuring every benefits-eligible FSM young person is able to access a FSM meal voucher over the Christmas holiday. The vouchers will have a value of £78 [13 days at £6 per day] for each eligible child and are fully funded by Cumbria County Council using COVID Grant Fund monies to take account of the increased hardship at this time of year. The number of weekdays covered by the offer [13] is mapped to Cumbria County Council’s published term time dates.

The WONDE system ‘LA window’ [where the LA can be selected on the WONDE system to pay for your order] will open at 8am on Friday 3rd December and close at 5pm on Monday 20th December.

The WONDE system we are using enables a clear audit trail for DWP/COVID accounting purposes.

Please note schools should not pay for vouchers on a school card and when using WONDE must select ‘pay by LA’ from the drop-down menu.

Please also note the ‘pay by LA’ option is for your benefits-related FSM young people to cover the Christmas holidays. You should continue with your own local solutions for term time.

If you need to check the latest FSM numbers for your school, please contact Jason Spedding on 07774016810 or via email

FAQ's, a sample letter to parents and our letter to headteachers are included below:

Cumbria Holiday Activity Programme - spread the word

With spaces still available for the winter Cumbria Holiday Activity Programme, schools have an important role in ensuring that children and families are aware of the free activities they can access over the school holidays. 

As such, we are asking that schools print out the e-leaflets below (double-sided) and ensure that all eligible children receive a leaflet showing what's available in their district. 


Visit for further information about the programme and to search the range of activities on offer.

What's new in the Schools Portal?

School Portal updates since 25 November 2021:

Simply click the name of the document to open the file.

 Name of document

 Date added

 EYFSP Moderation Cluster Event

 29 November 2021

SEND webinar event

Leadership of SEND: Building a Culture of Collective Responsibility

Part 2: Thursday 2nd December 2021, 14:00-15:30

During this session we will present four short case studies from SENDCO colleagues who have had recent Ofsted inspections (Autumn Term) and will reflect on key questions around collective responsibility for SEND.

Hear from:

  • Rachael Danson,   SENDCO at Framwellgate School, Durham
  • Cheryl Tindale,  SENDCO at Trinity Academy, Doncaster
  • Hayley Mannion,  Assistant Head and SENDCO at St Therese Of Lisieux Catholic Primary School,  Stockton-on-Tees
  • Meg Holmes,  SENDCO at Archbishop Holgate’s School,  York

Book now: Leadership of SEND: Building a Culture of Collective Responsibility | SendGateway

DfE resources for welcoming Afghan families

The Department of Education have shared some useful links to mental health and wellbeing resources for Afghan children and for teachers and others providing support to them.


  • CYP Psychological First Aid online course - FutureLearn - This short course created by Public Health England (now the Office for Health Inequalities and Disparities) aims to support those working directly with children and young people to help them access appropriate support needed during and after crisis situations. 
  • MindEd Hub - This site contains a series of learning paths created by specific organisations or professional groups,
    focusing on children’s’ mental wellbeing.
  • UKTC ( - These resources focus specifically helping professionals and carers to understand trauma and its
    impact on children.
  • Trauma Informed Schools UK - Trauma Informed Schools offer a range of training to educational settings on supporting children
    through trauma.

If you have any queries, please contact

Free Family Learning

The Family Learning team have updated the Family Learning programme for 2021/22. There are lots of interactive courses that are suitable for parents, carers and families.

Please see the brochure for more information and for details on how to request Family Learning sessions. 

Early Years update

Home Learning

This week our focus is on the rhyme Round and Round the Garden.   Please share with parents to support home learning around the development of speech, language and communication.

Chat Play Share: Round and Round the Garden

For a range of fun activity ideas for children and families, please share What Can I Do This Week? This week's activities all involve spoons. Remember that the activities contained in this communication are for the week starting next Monday.

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday

Wensum English Hub

There is the opportunity to access some EYFS CPD with a very strong speech, language and communication needs focus. The first roll out through the Orgill Hub was very well attended and received and as a result the Wensum English Hub would now like to host the same CPD for schools and settings. The sessions will be virtual, and open to everyone. 

For more information and contact details please read this flyer.